04/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Dao Of My Dog

This week, I was divinely inspired by something small. And cute. And furry. No, not Winnie-The-Pooh! Been there, done that. I'm talking about Conan the Chihuahua.

This little guy meditates with more dedication than I do. And though he may not recognize what he does as spiritual, I'm pretty sure what he's doing is closer to -- if not the definition of -- meditation than anything most humans could even aspire to. And so, that little guy got me thinking about dogs in general, and the entirely underrated zen-ness that they possess.

Lets start with my dog, Dumbo. (Or Dumbledore, for long). First off, my dog is awesome. And adorable. And, I'm pretty sure that he is the happiest creature alive. And that's not just because I'm the most awesome "mom" alive.

He's a simple thing. He likes his food, but he's not particular about what it is. He likes to sleep. He likes to be petted and cuddled. And he really likes his pink toy pig because it's a good size, and it makes oinking noises not so often that they're annoying, and not so often that they don't still pleasantly surprise him. Overall, he's got a good life. (That's him in the front page photo. If that's not pure, unadulterated happiness, then I don't know what is. The dog is more zen than the Dalai-Lama.)

And it's this sort of unflappable contentment that reminds me of Pooh and his Tao, and the patient understanding that though the world around him maybe going topsy-turvy and more or less insane, he just waits it out. Or maybe he's just remarkably lazy. (Which he most definitely is.)

But this brings me to my next point. Dogs have an entirely underrated capacity for forgiveness. There's not much you can do to a dog that he (or she) won't forgive you for. It takes years of consistent abuse and neglect for a dog to be actively aggressive towards humans. Fearful is a more common reaction, and even then, you can usually get a pretty immediate tail wag. Take, for example, the soulless-ness that is Michael Vick. Of the 53 dogs rescued from his dog-fighting ring, only six had to be euthanized. Six. Six dogs out of fifty-three who knew nothing other than a life of misery and abuse. Twenty-five dogs have already been adopted, and of the remaining twenty-two, only two dogs are un-adoptable.

I'm pretty sure that there is nothing more human, no scratch that, more humane than the ability to forgive. It means removing yourself from the equation, denying your ego, your reality, your pain, and allowing that person another chance, whether it's with you, with themselves, or just with life in general. And dogs do it all the time, without question and without expectation.

I know this post might seem a bit silly and a bit pointless, but it's not and it is something that is close to my heart. I think that we can all learn something from dogs. For me, from my dog, it's patience (he's really gotta go pee and I've been taking forever to write this post), unconditional love (it's the best kind there is, and he gives it to me daily), and while I want to say loyalty, it's actually something more along the lines of independence and adaptability (because I'm pretty sure that if one day I left him on a street corner, as long as someone picked him up, took him home, fed him, and gave him a minimal dose of love, he'd be happy as a clam.)

People say that they want a dog who is utterly loyal and who misses them more than anything and who's life wouldn't be complete without them, but I think this is unfair. I think these are human definitions of loyalty that we put on dogs, when really, the happiest -- and most zen -- a dog is, is when they are happy just being.

And so, if I could learn to be even remotely so simple, so remarkably resilient, and so entirely independent from the material world, I'd most definitely be at the end of this journey. (And probably gnawing on the ear of a small, pink, stuffed pig, but that's neither here nor there.)

I know I'm not the only dog lover out there. What have you learned from your dogs? Do you think I'm out of my mind and well on my way to being the canine version of the crazy cat lady? Or do you (and your dog) agree completely? Let me know. I'm curious.

[Author's Note: To all you cat-lovers out there who think that this post is an exercise in feline discrimination, you're wrong. I thought about titling it "The Zen of Pets" and making it a little more all-inclusive, but then I realized that cats are not zen, and they're not happy or content. They are cunning and devilish creatures who are plotting your demise at every turn. This is fact.]

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